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Fixed fees and portal for mesothelioma claims

Consultation to start next spring

19 December 2012

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Justice minister Helen Grant has announced that the government will consult next year on introducing fixed fees, an electronic portal and a pre-action portal for mesothelioma claims.

In a rare concession on the LASPO bill, Grant’s predecessor Jonathan Djanogly agreed in April that the ban on recoverability of success fees and insurance premiums in conditional fee cases would not apply to mesothelioma cases until the Lord Chancellor had reviewed the issue.

Stuart Henderson, personal injury managing partner at Irwin Mitchell, described Grant’s announcement as “dreadful news right before Christmas”.

Henderson said the planned changes were an attempt to force victims “to accept a fast-track, automated process instead of the sensitive case-by-case investigation they and their families need.

“Yet again, as with its plethora of civil justice reforms, the government has listened too much to the defendant lobby – but this time it is people who are dying who will lose out, which is truly shocking.”

Henderson said mesothelioma cases were complex, often stretched back 30 and 40 years and involved detailed investigations.

“We would always want our clients to have access to justice as quickly as possible for them and their families but our considerable experience in this field shows that the vast majority of delays are caused by defendant tactics, not by claimants.

“This will do nothing to address that and could even hand more power to defendants to delay cases until claimants have no option but to settle for less than their case is worth.”

Grant told parliament in a written statement that the government’s intention was to consult on the introduction of “fixed legal fees for mesothelioma claims, a dedicated pre-action protocol for those claims and an electronic portal on which the claims will be registered”.

She said the consultation would be issued in the spring of 2013.

“The aim is to ensure that these claims are processed and settled as quickly as possible given the nature of this disease.

“Mesothelioma is an aggressive and terminal occupational disease with an average life expectancy of less than two years from diagnosis. A claim for compensation can take up to two years to settle which means that sufferers often die before their claims are paid out.

“The government considers that it is imperative that these claims are settled quickly and that early payment of compensation is made so as to ease the sufferings of victims of this dreadful disease and give some assurance that their dependants will be financially secure when they are no longer around.”

Grant said that as part of the consultation, the government would carry out the review required under section 48 of the LASPO on the impact of abolishing recoverability of conditional fee agreement success fees and after the event insurance premiums.

“We intend to publish the outcome of that review next autumn,” Grant added.

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